British computer scientists have developed a formula to predict individuals' future movements by analyzing information in their mobile phone.
The scientists at the University of Birmingham successfully predicted future locations with an error margin of just 60 feet, The Sunday Times of London reports. The discovery has fueled privacy concerns.
While mobile phone networks can already track where a handset is in “real time,” the scientists have developed a formula for forecasting our future movements, The Sunday Times reports.
They compared data from social networking sites to predict a person’s future location based on places and areas visited in the past and the frequency of contact between those studied, The Sunday Times reported.
If, for example, two individuals who have close contact visit a particular restaurant, it is highly likely that this is where they will be the next time they are both heading towards the area where the restaurant is.
This means that mobile phone providers will be able to predict the future whereabouts of their customers, The Sunday Times reports.
The study used mobile phone data from 200 people living in the vicinity of Lausanne in Switzerland.
“Information extracted from the usage of a mobile phone is an intriguing source of data about people’s behavior,” Dr. Mirco Musolesi, who led the study, told The Times.
He said that the formula may not reflect the general population and would be more accurate in cities where people’s moves tend to be synchronized.
But some groups have said the technology would invade privacy.
“This development highlights huge privacy concerns,” Emma Carr, deputy director of Big Brother Watch, told The Sunday Times.
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